With Planning, Electric Vehicle Ownership Is Accessible To Apartment Dwellers

By · February 04, 2014

Multi-Unit Charging

Photo via eVgo.

If you live in a multi-unit dwelling—an apartment or condominium complex, that is—getting access to a charging station for your plug-in electric vehicle can be a little complicated. It's not as easy as simply running an extension cord out your window or installing a charging station in your favorite parking space. It can take weeks or months to work through the multiple steps to make charging available.

“There is some fundamental groundwork that you have to do if you want to get charging” in a multi-unit dwelling, Ed Kjaer, director of transportation electrification at Southern California Edison told PluginCars.com. “It is very much incumbent on the residents to get organized.” SoCal Edison prefers to deal with groups rather than individuals, said Kjaer. So it's advisable to get the property management company or home owners association involved early on.

But before the management company or HOA approaches the utility, Kjaer suggests first surveying the residents to see how much demand there is for charging points—then considering if there are suitable locations for the charging stations, with access to the 240V electricity. That could be an outside wall shared with an electrical room or a laundry room, for example.

Know Your Rights

Keep this in mind: Home owners associations and property managers can be one of the biggest barriers to getting charging installed. But the laws in a few states, including California and Hawaii, say that residents of multi-family dwellings have the right to install an EVSE so long as they pay for it and indemnify the landlord or HOA, as well as taking out a low-cost insurance policy against property damage, according to Paul Scott, a founding member of EV advocacy group Plug In America.

Looking online for guidelines to getting charging points installed is also a good idea. California accounts for one-third of all electric vehicles sold in the U.S. and the utilities in the state, including SoCal Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric, and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, have instructions online for charging station installation.

Most also have a wealth of additional information about rate plans, rebates, and even other charging station locations. The PEV Collaborative site www.pevcollaborative.org also has detailed guidelines and decision guides for multi-unit dwellings to consider when installing charging.


EV Connect, a Los Angeles-based EV charging software and solution provider, focuses mainly on enterprise-based charging solutions because charging station installation at multi-unit dwellings is so complicated, EV Connect CEO Jordan Ramer told PluginCars.com.

“There are a lot of different parties involved and that makes it a very complex sale and deployment process,” he said. For example, “on the sales side it is not very clear who is going to pay for it. That creates problems.”

That is especially true with condominiums, he said, because an owner may or may not own the parking space, and the Home Owners Association has to approve the station in any case. There is also the property management company to deal with. “There are all these different layers,” said Ramer.

With apartments, there is one landlord, which makes the payment situation easier. But deployment can still be tricky, depending on how the parking spaces are set up, said Ramer. “The landlord has to be willing to make that investment and be able to see a return,” he said.

Nonetheless, some property management companies are proactively installing charging. Sequoia Equities of Walnut Creek, Calif., for example, just announced it will install charging stations at 28 of its properties in northern and southern California.

The program is partly a result of requests by residents, but also a response to an anticipated growth in the number of plug-in electric vehicles because of the California mandate that 15.4 percent of all new vehicles sold the state by 2025 be plug-in pure electric, plug-in hybrid electric, or fuel cell vehicles by 2025, Cynthia M. McSherry, senior vice president of Portfolio Management at Sequoia told PluginCars.

McSherry said that the only “the only real challenge thus far was to pinpoint the locations that could best utilize existing electrical infrastructure, so as to minimize installation costs.”

However, Terry O’Day, vice president in charge of California for eVgo, the company paying for the installation and charging stations at the Sequoia properties, said that installations at multi-unit dwellings “is a complicated business.”

Each site has its own issues, he told PluginCars.com, such as different wiring setups, some in the wall and some underground.

The various properties are also served by different utility companies, who are “important partners for us” because sometimes there is a separate meter for each charging point and sometime the property owner has to be reimbursed for common meter usage, said O’Day. The rates also vary among utilities.

As for the utilities, they work with all charging station equipment and service providers, said SoCal Edison’s Kjaer. “We are pretty agnostic,” he said.


· · 4 years ago

FYI. ChargePoint, a charging network based in northern California, last October started working with HOA and management companies to help residents install charging stations. ChargePoint aims to collect data at the complexes.

To date, a Chargepoint spokesperson told us, it has received 28 applications from individuals living in multi-unit dwelllings. Those charge stations await signatures of the "ChargePoint Master Subscription service agreements and grant agreements" by the EV owners. ChargePoint hopes to begin installations in mid-March.

· · 4 years ago

Im poor and I park in the street and I had to be careful to park on the permitted side of the street that change each week day. I will also wait 10 more years to change my actual car. So it's impossible to install a charger or a power outlet. It's impossible to visit a public fast charger as there is none in the area. I might move to a house with a driveway soon but I will still be impossible to change my car for an ev.

The best would be that they start to sell hydrogen cars very soon so I will be able to buy one used unit at a bargain price in 2023 approx. I hope then that there will be a sufficient hydrogen infrastructure . These bev are not appealing to 60% of the resident of my entire town but hydrogen cars can be purchased and driven by 100% of the resident given a decent hydrogen network. Forget bothersome charging that cost more then gasoline or hydrogen when you factor in downtime and the cost of buying a level 2 charger.

· · 4 years ago

gorr: If you are willing to wait almost 10 years to purchase a used FC vehicle, why can't you wait for a BEV that has a larger battery and then can QC at a local facility? I understand that you don't have access to on site charging, but in 10 years I am certain that QC will be prevalant as will larger batteries...

· · 4 years ago

JKDLOU: Yes in 10 years from now things might change but if my car is good for another 15 years as I do little mileage then I will wait 15 years.

· · 4 years ago


Your discussion brings up an interesting point. In 10 years from now, will we have BEVs with giant (>100kWh) batteries and ubiquitous QCs? If so, any apartment dweller could pick up a BEV and only have to QC it once a week (or two!). The whole discussion of HOA / renters / workplaces installing L2 chargers would become practically moot. If this is our future, then public L2 is purely a transitional technology.

If we don't have any major breakthroughs in batteries, I think an EREV is our long term solution. Something like a Volt with a fuel cell range extender takes the pressure off the hydrogen fueling network (the buildout would need to be an order of magnitude smaller), and still allows for opportunity charging for cheaper / more convenient electricity, especially for those who do have access to charging at home.

Of course, the range extender could run off of anything that can be produced sustainably and efficiently - possibly ethanol, biodiesel, or something entirely new.

· · 4 years ago

Brian: I agree with you. If batteries increase exponentially in size, then all of the discussion re:charging become quite different. Having a Level II at home (I don't yet) means that the typical driver, on a typical day, will simply wake up to a full battery every day. Then on those longer trips, the car can be QC'd somewhere. I don't know what to expect if there is no large scale evolution of battery capacity. It may come down to an ICE extender such as the Volt, maybe a FC, as Gorr says, maybe there will be something else we have not yet considered. But frankly, the range of todays typical EV(eg: LEAF) is still inadequate for people who only have one car. My bet is that battery range will go up while the cost goes down. A 125-150 mile range EV, with QC capability and a fast on board charger is pretty much going to cover most people's driving, even on longer trips. I am excited about the future...

· · 4 years ago

I agree, today's Leaf is insufficient for most people to have as an only car. But there are murmurs from Nissan that a 150-mile (EPA range) Leaf is not too far off. That, plus a ubiquitous QC network, would be something I could live with.


Of course, if Tesla comes through with their GenIII (200 mile range, SC access, <$40k) car, that would work too!

· · 4 years ago

I'm an apartment dweller and have had a Nissan Leaf for a month now. I first tried to go the trickle charge route in one of the garages, but blew a fuse they had on 18 single-garage units (I'm guessing 15 amps, another tenant would open their automatic garage door which would blow the fuse). They offered that I could pay to improve the wiring, but I'm not up for the cost associated with redoing the wiring.

My strategy now is I charge at work during the day and then on Sundays I go to the dealer and L2 charge there (10 minute walk from my apartment). It's been working for 2 weeks so far for our 1 car family, though we'll be looking at renting a house this summer to be able to charge again at home.

New to EVs? Start here

  1. Seven Things To Know About Buying a Plug-In Car
    A few simple tips before you visit the dealership.
  2. Incentives for Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Cars
    Take advantage of credits and rebates to reduce EV costs.
  3. Buying Your First Home EV Charger
    You'll want a home charger. Here's how to buy the right one.